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I went unmasked to the grocery store today, pushing my unmasked 86-year-old father in a wheelchair (in late-stage Parkinson’s, he’s now my permanent wingman). We’ve both long since received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. I didn’t intend to break the local Kroger requirement (in place despite the fact that the state of Arizona’s mask mandate was reversed back in March). Perhaps it is some kind of unconscious bias or just orneriness, but we arrived at the store with no face coverings, ignored the warnings posted on the door, and went in. The store was busy as always and everyone, it seemed, wore a mask except for us and a few toddlers. I smiled at everyone, made small talk and enjoyed the visit. I did see one other adult patron without a mask and several who had masks, but who let them sag, exposing a nose, or even, dare I mention, a mouth. We all nodded at each other and quietly laughed.
I otherwise received no wry looks, no reprimands, no comments at all. I practiced my defense, just in case. We’d received the vaccines. Our entire household had been vaccinated. We posed no threat. But it never came to that
We checked out. The cashier wore two masks as well as a little fan mechanism around her neck, a COVID talisman no doubt (you can never be too safe.) She didn’t acknowledge the nakedness of our faces and was muffled, glib and friendly. We escaped with our stuff without issue.
It was nice.
No one wants to challenge the heterodoxy, to expose themselves to criticism, to even consider whether or not this mask-wearing, hand washing, social distancing stuff makes any sense. There seems to be significant evidence that these efforts, at least among healthy people, mitigate almost nothing. PCR tests are unreliable and show false-positive results at alarming rates. Healthy children are rarely affected by the disease, and even if infected, they do not seem to pass on the virus. The virus does not seem to linger on surfaces. Sunlight kills it. It is significantly dissipated in the fresh air and highly unlikely to result in sufficient loads outdoors to cause transmission. Its virulence is diminished by heat. And as for masks, it is difficult to believe that a material 1000 times more porous than the virus could be an effective barrier. And that’s if the masks are handled and worn correctly. Masks are literally attempting to dam a river with a fishing net.
So why aren’t there more rebels out there nakedly smiling? Because the mask is a badge of conformity, a signal of obedience, the cross of the secular state. The wearers at once are signaling that they believe in the COVID 19 threat, in the government, in what they are told. They are contrite and faithful. They refuse to even acknowledge that the risk of COVID might not be all that; that it might be a nasty bug like some colds, flues, and cases of pneumonia that act as the last straw among the sick, the old, and the infirm. Folks like me who refuse to comply with the stated orthodoxy, who push back and challenge, are apostates and threaten order. Why, they wonder, challenge the stated dogma? What purpose does it serve?
Obedience is a virtue, no doubt, but when it demands conformity and crushes debate when it turns blindly mandatory, it is tyranny.
Masks are political, a badge of conformity. Today, I did not wear one. Call me disobedient, apostate, but I will not wear another. Give it a try. It’s liberating.Published in